Full Metal Panic: Mission.01 Review
From GONZO Digimation comes 2002's Full Metal Panic - a blistering anime series featuring action, love, spies and some laugh out loud comedy.
There is a secret organization in the world known as Mithril. This team of self appointed saviors of justice travels the globe fighting terrorism using technology that is ten years ahead of every other nation. Sergeant Sosuke Sagara is Mithril's top professional, at just sixteen years of age he has fought major battles and learned to follow the militaristic code but things are about to get a whole lot more difficult for him.
Sagara is soon given the task of protecting a young girl by the name of Kaname Chidori, who is apparently a target for the KGB. Sosuke is sent to Jindai High School where he is to pose undercover as a student, however his social skills are a little to be desired and he struggles to fit in with the rest of his classmates. With only one goal in mind he focuses on the job at hand and shadows Kaname wherever she goes. Helping out Sosuke is Sergeant Major. Melissa Mao and Kurz Weber who do surveillance work near by and are the closest to friends that he has. Can this band of heroes protect Kaname from the evil threat that is pursuing her? Time will tell in this 24 part comedy/adventure series.
Introductions to anime series don't get much better than they do here. Volume one of Full Metal Panic clicks into first gear from the get go, in what is a very impressive action opening sequence that introduces us to the Mithril and their Arm Slaves - enormous mech-warriors with enough power to take care of opposing military units. The style and quality of the animation is amazing, I was impressed by RahXephon but this takes things up a notch and offers some astounding moments that are effortlessly combined with CG animation to provide exciting intervals in between the main story.
I'm very pleased to see that GONZO Digimation have gotten themselves back on track after their previous disaster that was Zaion, a show that may have looked nice but was heavily under developed and the special digital effects were often poorly executed.
With a longer episode run at their disposal, the animators over at GONZO are given the space to flesh out characters and carry what appears to be an evolving story arc.
What I like about this series is how quickly we get to know the main players and instantly find them appealing - Character designer, Osamu Horiuchi has created an ensemble of interesting and attractive characters that each have their own unique personalities. It's when we first see the characters interact that we begin to see the comic inclusion take over throughout much of this volume. There are many faces introduced to the series, some of whom have smaller parts than others but will no doubt feature more screen time in future episodes, where I shall then talk about their roles.
When it comes to anime my primary interest lies in good, solid, comical humour. More often than not I like surrealism in my anime or humour that goes way beyond certain boundaries. Furthermore the sillier the better and Full Metal Panic definitely falls into this category. Director, Koichi Chigira concentrates on characterization for the most part, on the surface this is another fish out of water tale that sees our hero placed in various situations as he tries to look after the girl, but here it is handled with such wonderful panache that it succeeds greatly. Mixed in with Sosuke's missions are many fine moments that establish the series as being a top hybrid of various genres, with comedy being its main focal point in this volume. From strange teachers to panty theft, this series sets up nicely what I hope to be a continually hilarious production.
For a series featuring mech-action it is good to see that we don't have a story focusing predominantly on military weapons and endless battles that do no more than appease strict action fans. The Arm-Slaves are implemented into the story with both action and stealth in mind. These machines can camouflage and blend into any environment, again this brings additional moments of brilliance and keeps the series fresh on its toes. Judging by the trailer this series appears to be more action oriented, so it's a great treat to be given so much more and have everything blend in together so well. (No pun intended).
Toward the end of this volume events take a dramatic turn. Episode four sees what is the first major plot development, with concerns to the roles that Kaname and Sousuke's old enemy, Gauron plays. Although the situation is presented in a tense manner it still remains true to its comical essence by offering a couple of light-hearted moments, save for the ending that finishes things off with a cliff-hanger that is A) coincidence or B) a very clever marketing ploy from ADV. Either way the series is good enough to warrant checking out volume two.
So far there have been a few hints of KGB activity and some kind of project known as "whispers". It looks as if Russia is going to play a large part in the series but at this point their intentions are only briefly examined. As for Kaname, she is an enigma and very little is given away, aside from her personality that shifts all too frequently. Volume 1 is a fine introduction because of the way it doesn't dive into any overly convoluted plot lines and allows us to easily settle in to what should hopefully be a very consistently enjoyable series.
Full Metal Panic Volume 1 contains the following episodes:
The Guy I Kinda Like is a Sergeant
After rescuing a whispered girl, Sousuke Sagara is called out on an assignment - to protect a sixteen year old girl named Kaname Chidori. Comedy ensues as Sousuke gets to grips with school life, while his colleagues hang out at their apartment, listening in on his task.
I Want to Protect You
Not forgetting that he is a sergeant, Sousuke naturally adopts a militaristic attitude while attending High school. At the first sign of trouble he his ready to pull his gun out at anyone, including his new teacher, Ms. Kagurazaka. Things don't go too well when he inadvertently touches her breast.
Teletha "Tessa" Testarossa, who works at Mithril has traced an institute developed for whispered research, and she orders an immediate attack on the facility. During routine surveillance work, Sousuke, Mao and Kurz spy an intruder climbing up to Kaname's apartment. Sousuke quickly pursues the suspicious character, only to find out it is none other than his fellow classmate, Shinji, who has an interesting little fetish.
It's time for a school trip. When the plane carrying Sousuke and his fellow classmates is hijacked by Gauron, Sousuke quickly loses his temper having assumed that Gauron had been long dead. Sousuke begins to formulate a plan to rescue his friends but there are a few obstacles in his way…
ADV present Full Metal Panic on another excellent DVD that does GONZO's work full justice. Aside from having a reversible cover it also it also features a fold out poster that has series notes on the reverse.
ADV often go out of their way to provide colourful, animated menus and here they have come up with one of their finest. The main menu takes its cue from the mech side of the series, featuring clunky metal like panels that open and close, with various mechanical sound effects as they take you into your desired sub menu. A lot of care has been put into this release and it's a great compliment to the series.
Digitally animated series often look the best when it comes to reproduction on DVD. Full Metal Panic is simply stunning. If it wasn't for the digital banding that occasionally occurs then this transfer would get full marks. The series looks sharp, the colours are reproduced perfectly and to be honest this is everything that any anime fan hopes for. Great stuff again from ADV.
It is standard practice for ADV to provide an English 5.1 dub and the original Japanese 2.0 track. Naturally the 5.1 handles surrounds better when it comes to action scenes but when it comes to dialogue this is a series that is so much more enjoyable in Japanese. The familiar ADV voice actors appear, with Chris Patton leading the cast and they all do fine jobs but when it comes to comedy in Japanese anime I find that the Japanese actors are rarely matched. The music from the series is nicely balanced and rather amusingly there is a running A-Team style theme.
ADV tend to be a little more inconsistent when it comes to providing extras. It would be nice if more of their DVDs could feature audio commentaries for example but here we are left with a fairly typical, spoonful of extras.
As to be expected on any ADV release but this series does have a brilliant credit sequence that is nice to see in all of its glory.
The nice little closing montage that shows photographs of Kaname growing up.
This runs for 90 seconds and shows full colour character and weapon designs.
Japanese Piracy Warnings
Two original piracy warnings that accompanied the series in Japan. There's a little bit of humour thrown in but the point is made loud and clear. Of further note - after you insert the DVD you will be treated to a piracy warning, with Luci Christian (the English voice actress for Kaname).
Trailers for: Dirty Pair Flash, RahXephon, Dai-Guard and Noir.
I am really impressed with Volume 1 of Full Metal Panic. If it can continue to entertain as much as this then it may well become a personal favourite of mine, as this volume demonstrates what is a virtually flawless opening for a series and GONZO deserves a lot of praise for their effort.
9 out of 10
9 out of 10
8 out of 10
4 out of 10